It’s an ambitious project—attempting to explain psychopaths in global leadership positions, a possible cause of what looks like psychopathic behavior, and what to do about it all. This is the documentary film, I am <fishead(, produced and directed by Misha Votruba and Vaclav Dejcmar.
Here’s a clip, featuring Dr. Robert Hare, the guru of psychopathy:
Fishead is divided into three parts. Part 1 is about psychopaths, specifically corporate psychopaths, who are blamed for the global financial meltdown that began in 2008. This is probably true, although the only individual named is Bernie Madoff.
The authors of Snakes in Suits, Dr. Robert Hare and Dr. Paul Babiak, explain psychopathy, and how psychopaths in business claw and backstab their way to the top of organizations. Hare and Babiak certainly know their stuff, and you’ll recognize their descriptions of psychopathic behavior.
But then Hare and Babiak start talking about the difference between psychopaths and sociopaths. This is a matter of debate and disagreement in the mental health field, so essentially they are expressing their opinions and preferences, not fact. Hare mentions that the film Reservoir Dogs highlights the difference between psychopaths and sociopaths—apparently one kills because he has to and another kills because he likes it. But Hare didn’t specify which was which, and I wasn’t sure. My contention, of course, is that from the point of view of the dead guy, it doesn’t matter.
Part 2 of Fishead goes off in a different direction. It’s about “happy pills—”antidepressants. As you watch, you may wonder if the filmmakers are claiming that antidepressants cause psychopathy, but they don’t quite go that far. Here’s what they write:
The second part of the film touches on how, for a small number of people, overuse of antidepressants can result in behaviors that appear to mimic some psychopathic features. Although overuse of these medications will not produce psychopathy, they may stifle emotion and decrease the user’s ability to feel empathy.
Actually, I think the real problem with antidepressants may not be that it makes users behave in sociopathic ways, but rather, antidepressants enable victims to tolerate sociopathic behavior in others.
For example, in my upcoming book, Red Flags of Lovefraud, I have a chapter on protecting yourself from predators. In the Internet survey that Lovefraud conducted last year, we asked if people involved in romantic relationships with sociopaths had an intuition or gut feeling early on that something was wrong. A whopping 71 percent of respondents answered yes. And 40 percent ignored their intuition.
Why? One woman explained:
I ignored it because I loved him. After a time he convinced me there was something wrong with ME and convinced me to go on antidepressants. The drugs mellowed me and I lost that feeling.
I’ve heard stories like this one many times—sociopaths are causing distress and to cope with it, the victims go on drugs. This can be the problem with antidepressants. We are upset because something is WRONG! If we no longer feel upset, we don’t try to change what is WRONG!
The third part of the documentary asks the question, “So what do we do about all of this?”
Fishead talks about the work of Dr. Stanley Milgram, who conducted numerous famous experiments showing that most people will administer electric shocks to others, even though they know the person is being hurt, if they are directed to do it by someone in authority. But it points out an interesting experiment that is not as well known. Dr. Milgram also found that if the experiment subjects first saw someone refuse to administer the shocks, they were much more likely to refuse as well.
The point is that when people stand up to authority, or evil, it gives others the courage to stand up as well. In fact, the filmmakers say it only takes 5 percent of the people in a group to behave differently for the entire group to be influenced.
Food for thought
I am <fishead( is a well-made film. Artistically, it has an art-house feel to it, with stark backdrops for the guest expert interviews and clever animation. And, the film is narrated by the actor Peter Coyote.
Although I don’t agree with all the points, the film does a good job of drawing attention to what is probably the biggest hidden problem facing our society: the outsized damage caused by psychopaths (sociopaths). And it challenges us: What are we going to do about it?
For more about the movie, visit the website: Fisheadmovie.com.
You can watch the movie on the Internet—the length is 1 hour, 17 minutes. Just click the “where to see” link, and email the producers to get your free password.